How to Remove Blackheads

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How to remove blackheads is a common question that I get in the office daily. It’s not only important to know how to remove blackheads, but to also understand what causes them and the best way to prevent blackheads.

Blackheads are open comedones. Open comedones are plugs made of oil (sebum), skin, and occlusive particles that block the pore. When exposed to air, the blockage becomes oxidized and the plug appears black. This is in contrast to whiteheads (closed comedones) that are not exposed to air.

Here are a couple helpful tips to help you remove blackheads:

Know what is a blackhead and what is not

A blackhead will usually cause a slight rise in the skin and may dilate the pores. There is usually no hair in the blackhead. Contrast this to a black dot follicle usually found on the nose. These black dot follicles can have a hair in them, appear smaller than blackheads, are not usually above the skin, and are extremely thin when pushed out.

Remove blackheads in a clean environment

Make sure that your hands are clean and you are not introducing more oils and contaminants into the follicles.

Be gentle

Pushing too hard or using your fingernails may result in inflammation that could be much worse than the blackhead you are trying to remove. Worse yet, your fingernails could traumatize and even cut the skin and possibly lead to more long lasting damage.

A comedone extractor may be helpful

You can buy a comedone extractor online and have a loved one extract your blackheads for you. Be careful with these, though. Slipping of the extractor can cause an abrasion that could potentially leave a dark streak mark on your skin.

Removing the blackheads

  1. Gently cleanse your face with a soap rather than a cleanser. A soap will remove oil and impurities, while a cleanser is likely to leave a slight oily residue on the skin.
  2. Steaming is optional. You can choose to cautiously use steam to help soften the blackhead for extraction. Do NOT get too close to the steamer. Make sure that you are at a safe distance and are only feeling the warmth, not heat, and especially not pain. Another effective, and perhaps better, alternative would be a warm shower rather than the steamer.
  3. Apply gentle lateral pressure with your fingers, not fingernails. Alternatively, you can use an extractor and press downward at a 75-90 degree angle. Again, use caution so that the extractor doesn’t slip or slide.
  4. Blackhead strips are optional. To optimize your results, gentle steaming followed by a blackhead strip may provide the best results. Alternatively, washing your face with warm water or taking a warm shower prior to strip application could also be done. Follow the instructions on the blackhead strips for best results.

Unfortunately, there is no magic to removing blackheads. They have to be physically removed, either extracted by strips that pull them out of the pores, or, being pushed out with pressure. Be gentle, and be safe!

Preventing blackheads

  1. Wash with a Salicylic Acid +/- Glycolic Acid wash twice daily.
  2. Optionally use a OTC Retinol or prescription Retin-A product nightly.
  3. Do not touch your face. You can block your pores by moving oils from your face or fingers into the pores.
  4. Use non-comedogenic makeups and moisturizers.
  5. Wash and change your pillowcases often. Pillowcases are a forgotten source of retained facial oils while sleeping. Rubbing your face in pillowcases that have facial oils trapped in them is an easy way to get your pores blocked.

Hope these tips help keep you blackhead free!

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